The Hazel Park Police Department has put into place new policies to provide more accountability for the handling of public asset forfeiture funds, a response to the case of one police detective who stands accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the department.

The Hazel Park Police Department has put into place new policies to provide more accountability for the handling of public asset forfeiture funds, a response to the case of one police detective who stands accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the department.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Hazel Park police detective charged with embezzlement

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 5, 2021

 Sean Boucher

Sean Boucher

Advertisement

HAZEL PARK — A Hazel Park police detective stands accused of running a criminal enterprise and embezzling more than $65,000 in public asset forfeiture funds following an investigation by the FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force.

Sean Boucher, 45, of Warren, was arraigned Feb. 18 in Ferndale’s 43rd District Court on a felony charge of conducting a criminal enterprise, punishable by 20 years in prison and/or $100,000; embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison and/or $25,000, or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater; and five counts of embezzlement by a public official of more than $50, a 10-year felony or $5,000.

Boucher turned himself in at the Michigan State Police North Metro Post in Oak Park the morning prior to his arraignment. His attorney, Paul Tylenda, did not return a call for comment by press time.

Authorities say that between 2013 and 2017, Boucher embezzled about $68,000 for his own personal use over the course of several incidents. Michigan law allows for the seizure of funds and property that were used during or connected to criminal activity. The public asset forfeiture funds are meant to support future law enforcement operations, paying for training, equipment and more.

“Mr. Boucher allegedly stole from the city of Hazel Park and its citizens, depriving them of needed projects and public services,” Timothy Waters, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said in a statement. “Make no mistake, any public servant who exploits his position of trust to enrich himself will be held accountable.”

Boucher was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 11, 2017, by the Hazel Park Police Department and was suspended the following day; he resigned Sept. 15, 2017. At the time he was an 18-year veteran of the department, assigned to the detective bureau.

Back then, Martin Barner was the police chief. He previously said that the suspect, who was unidentified at the time as the investigation commenced, was in charge of managing non-drug forfeitures such as vehicles used in the commission of non-drug-related crimes like retail fraud or drunken driving accidents. Barner had been conducting an internal audit when he noticed inconsistencies in the numbers dating back years.

“This is what it comes down to — it comes down to what’s right and what’s wrong,” Barner said previously. “And I don’t care if you’re an officer, the president, the pope, a homeless person, whatever — what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are consequences for your actions.

“People ask me how I feel,” Barner said at the time. “It makes me feel like it should make anyone feel: betrayed.”

Brian Buchholz, who is now the police chief after Barner retired, said in an email that his department takes the matter very seriously. He also thanked the other law enforcement agencies who helped investigate the crime.

“The residents of Hazel Park put their trust in the defendant to uphold the law, and that trust was broken. These charges should in no way be a reflection of the members of this department who serve this city with honor and integrity every day,” Buchholz said. “As much as the public puts their trust in law enforcement to serve with honor and uphold the law, we as law enforcement put a great amount of trust in each other. This is a huge betrayal to the oath that we take and the law enforcement profession.

“We are glad this case is moving forward, as we have here also,” he said. “We have taken steps to ensure this type of thing does not happen again, and have put checks and balance measures in place. We still have to count on each other to do our jobs with honesty, trust and integrity.”

Dana Nessel, the state attorney general whose office prosecuted the case following the investigation by the FBI, commended the work of investigators.

“This joint operation is an excellent example of law enforcement working together to serve in the public’s best interest,” Nessel said in a statement. “As a member of law enforcement, you pledge your professional life to the service of others, which is grounded in trust with the community in which an officer serves. My office is committed to rebuilding and upholding the public’s trust in government and law enforcement, and I will go to great lengths to root out corruption and misuse of authority in pursuit of justice.”

Advertisement